Saturday, May 31, 2008

Growing up in Philadelphia

Nostalgia makes everything look a little better. As a young boy growing up with modest means (to put it mildly), there wasn't a lot of money available for entertainment. And growing up in the city, I don;t have any stories about hunting or fishing or exploring underground caves.

Luckily, when I was really little, I could, for 50 cents, go the Benner movie theater, pay 25 cents to get in and have 15 cents left for a bag of popcorn and 10 cents for a box of candy (both much smaller then they would be today). Of course the day of those neighborhood theaters has long gone, with the closing last year of what was a new movie when I was young.

When I got old enough to leave the neighborhood myself, the city of Philadelphia was a source of lots of adventures. And if you were creative it didn't cost a whole lot. In fact , a pretty good day could cost less then $1.50

In those days you got a transfer at that would allow you to change buses for free. Every time you got on a bus you asked, and you received. You could then use that to get on another bus, and with proper planning, you could take travel around the entire city for one fare.

In my case I would take the 59 trackless trolley (this is actually a photo of the place where I got on - with the Bushrod Library in the background) down to the Frankford El . For a snack you could buy a soft pretzel for 5 cents (or 6 for a quarter) and then you boarded the train and you were on your way to Center City . In Philadelphia, we don't talk about downtown, we talk about Center City - downtown was what people in South Philly called their neighborhood when they didn't call it South Philly.

I got off at 5th Street, and had choice of places to visit. I could go to Independence Hall National Park , and from there it was short walk to Betsy Ross's House, or Ben Franklin's House, or down to 13th Street to buy 13 coverless paperback book's from Robin's Bookstore . And City Hall, the Free Library, or the Art Museum were always worth a trip. In any case, Center City Philly was a terrific place to wander around, filled with sights and smells that dazzled the young mind.

Still holding a transfer, when it was time to go home, I would get on the Broad Street Subway and take it north to the Fern Rock Station where I took the "Y" Bus (no longer in service) to Castor and Cottman and caught the 59 going south to go back home.

All in all a pretty good day - and all those paperbacks - not a bad way to build your library when you're young.

REALTOR Code of Ethics - Article 1, Part 1

A Little while ago I told you I would be posting the Video series published by NAR on the REALTOR Code of Ethics.
One of the oldest Codes of Ethics in the United States, the Code is a living document which breakes the obligations of REALTORS into three categories, Duties to Clients, Duties to the Public, and Duties to Other REALTORS.
This Video explains the First obligation of a REALTOR - the obligation of a professional to their Client

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Short Sales & Foreclosures in Philadelphia

During any market, good or bad, people look for bargains. In the current market, there is a lot of curiosity and interest by consumers in the difference between foreclosures ,pre-foreclosure properties and short sales.

Strictly speaking, every property is a pre-foreclosure property. The term however is used to indicate a home where the homeowner is in default under the current mortgage, and the next step for the lender might be to begin the foreclosure process. Once a lender begins the foreclosure process, they have taken steps to secure the property which was pledged as security for a debt which is now delinquent. In Pennsylvania, this process culminates in a Sheriff Sale. At the Sheriff Sale, the bank will bid an amount equal to the debt, the delinquent interest, the late fees and all of the costs incurred taking the property to the sale. If there is a third party who bids a higher amount, they will be the purchaser at the sale. The amount bid by the lender is not related to the market price of the property, but to the outstanding debt. Once the lender owns the property, they will evict any tenants (or former owners) and then price the property at a market price and begin to market the property.

Short Sales were formerly fairly rare, but with a higher level of delinquencies, have now become a portion of the real estate market. The actual of a short sale is a sale where title has transferred; where the sales price was insufficient to pay the total of all liens and costs of sale; and where the seller did not bring sufficient liquid assets to the closing to cure all deficiencies. As you can see, this is a situation where settlement has already occurred. More properly, what most buyers get involved with is a potential short sale, which is one where the listing (and/or selling) agent reasonably believes the purchase price may not be enough to cover payment of all liens and costs of sale and the seller is unwilling or unable to bring sufficient liquid assets to the closing.

These sales require a buyer with a lot of patience, a cooperative seller, and a listing agent with a lot of persistence since the process involves not only the agreement of the seller, but the approval of the lender, who is probably receiving less then the amount they are owed. Approval of a short slae by a lender may involve not only the primary lender, but possibly approval for other individuals who have an interest in the original mortgage loan, or possible releases from lenders who hold junior liens (liens that were recorded after the first delinquent loan). In the current market, many lenders are more responsive and more flexible then formerly, but the process still varies from lender to lender, and approval times can be anywhere from two weeks to as much as 4 or 6 weeks.

While I might not avoid a property that was a potential short sale, I would, as I said before, be prepared to be very patient, and to determine prior to making any offer, just how ready I was to wait as long as it takes to get an answer.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

REALTORS and Department of Justice Stop Litigation

In a huge announcement today, the Department of Justice and the National Association of REALTORS came to an agreement which ended the DOJ's persecution of the real estate industry.

The protracted three year battle ended up being a sort of non-event, since REALTORS will still be doing business the way they have for years, benefiting consumers and competing on a large and varied field.

I had the privilege of breaking the news on AgentGenius earlier today! Still won't double post though, so read it here!

People Count More than Advertising

Growing up in Northeast Philadelphia, people always used the business in the neighborhood. Everyone know that Mickey Callan's dad Lou Calinoff made great pizza, and every 10th one was free. People talked about the Pepper Hash at Lenny's Hot Dogs, and their friends went there to try it. You knew that Nate at Nate's deli was a little abrupt, but you didn't have the wait you had a the Castor Deli.

In those pre-franchise days, where there were few national companies, every one's insurance agent, lawyer, tax man (accountant), and real estate agent was some body's friend, and that was how you knew then and why you used them. Today its a little harder. And advertising isn't the same as knowing someone or getting a referral from a friend.

So social media comes to the rescue. People get to meet on-line and become friends, trading information and making referrals. Recently a friend of mine, Paul Chaney was on Twitter and posted a link to an article called "Ads Versus the Consumer Voice- Who wins?". The thrust of the article was that people really haven't changed, but the media they use to communicate has.
Today, waiting to get home to Philly in a condo in Los Angeles, I see a link posted by a man in Lafayette Louisiana , written by a man in England that I want to share with people in Philadelphia.And the information travels around the world and across the country in less then 20 minutes from start to finish. Amazing technological advance isn't it? And yet it all leads back to the same thing people have done for years, rely upon other consumers experience to make their commercial choices. Recommend someone today- bet both people will appreciate it.

Monday, May 26, 2008

A Pittance of Time

Pictured above is my father's younger brother, Paul Lublin who passed away recently. Paul served with Patton's Army in WWII earning the Bronze Star. Not pictured here, but also worth remembering are

  • Felix Rosen, Infantry, WWII, one of the liberators of the Dachau Concentration Camp (and my wife's father)
  • Colonel Aaron Ariff, B-24 Navigator out of Cerignola Italy, where he won the Silver Star and a Presidential Unit Citation (My Wife's Uncle)
  • Captain Harry Lublin who served in the Signal Corps during WWII (my Dad's youngest brother)
  • Isadore Krasno, who fought on D-Day and at the Battle of the Bulge (my Mom's Cousin, and the man who introduced my parents)
  • James Walsh, who fought with the Marines at the Chosin Reservoir in Korea (my partner's father, who served in WWII and Korea)
  • Sam Stein, my high school friend who died in Viet Nam, just days after arriving as a Marine Helicopter door guard.

    For them and all of the others who fought to provide us with the luxury of freedom, take a moment to listen to a Canadian Song a called "A Pittance of Time. " Apropos for today. Just click on the link to my ActiveRain Blog

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Walk for Those Who Struggle

I'm not real big on talking about charitable acts. I really think that an act of charity is its own reward, and doesn't need to be publicized to make the act better. So I'm a little torn about writing about our company's Annual Participation in Easter Seal's "Come Walk with Me" event.

For the past two years, CENTURY 21 Advantage Gold, has been a corporate sponsor of the Philadelphia, "Walk With Me Event" and both years were the 2nd largest CENTURY 21 fund raiser for Pennsylvania.

This year we will walk again on June 14th at the Philadelphia Art Museum to raise money for those who would find the walk difficult because they are struggling with physical issues that make their lives a challenge every day.

I know that times are tough for many people, but if you can, just for a moment on this holiday weekend, think about these kids, and help us help.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Memorial Day Moment of Silence on YouTube

In the Words of my good friend Cliff Niersbach, "This weekend we honor the men and women who've made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Please remember them, as well as everyone serving on active duty - and their familes. They are the true American heroes."

Could anyone have possibly said this better?

God Bless all of them, and your family, whose right to enjoy their freedom these heroes fought to protect.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The REALTOR Code of Ethics - A Video Introduction

NAR developed a wonderful set of Videos under the direction of the Professional Standards Committee for use by REALTORS, and to inform Consumers.

This is the first in that series. Over the coming weeks, I will continue to add these videos to the blog so that when I comment on individual parts of the Code, readers will have a ready reference to use.

Monday, May 19, 2008

It s A GREAT Time to Buy Real Estate in Philadelphia

Consumers that are bombarded by negative media coverage of the real estate nationally may be missing the boat by not moving forward to buy real estate in the Philadelphia market.

Philadelphia's neighborhoods have perhaps the most efficient housing stock in the nation. The Philadelphia Row house. Though older housing stock, the Philadelphia row house has 2 to 4 bedrooms (mostly three) either one or two full baths, and if the house is less then 60 years old, probably a powder room. If the property is less then 65 years old, there is probably a built in garage.

With low interest rates, and a 9 month supply of real estate on the market prices are good, mortgage rates are affordable, and the opportunities are ripe for buyers, because the basic reasons for buying property are unchanged in our marketplace.

Buyers who purchase a home for their family, will satisfy a need, pay less then it would cost to rent the same property, and will build equity and security, both emotional and financial over the long term (5 to 7 years). This is a hearkening back to the "old" real estate market (pre-2001) where generation after generation of Philadelphians bought a row home, which they later traded for a Semi-detached home, and perhaps, eventually for a single home in the suburbs. We're not even talking about appreciation here, and we don't need to for an individual or a family to receive the benefits of home ownership.

For investors, the row House offers a positive cash flow with as little as 10% down. And even if the property were only to break even each month, over a period of years, your tenant will pay down your loan, and leave you with an asset that can be used to pay for a child's college education, or to help with a wedding, or retirement. In any case, real estate as a long term investment still beats the pants off of everything else , and that with a minimum of risk.

Check out the details for yourself. Everyone has different needs, but there's a lot of opportunity out there, and the time to take advantage of it is now!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

I Sell Foreclosures

As you may be aware, I have specialized in selling foreclosed properties for the past 20 years. Its been a good specialty, and one that I believe benefits the community by putting housing stock back in the hands of people that both need it and can maintain it.

A recent article in USA Today headlined the stress surrounding foreclosures, that led to a tragedy that in the Pacific Northwest. I wrote about it at AgentGenius , and as is my policy, rather then re-writing the same post. I have made it available here for you to read, along with some of the comments of real estate professionals who have read it.
As a balance, the next time we talk about foreclosures or short sales, I'll make sure there is some good information that may benefit my readers.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Social Media is Old-Time Networking

May is one of the two meetings held by the National Association of REALTORS. The May meetings are usually centered around the economy and the legislative efforts of the Association.

This time the meetings had a little different twist for me. Not only did I get to spend time working on the Professional Standards Committee, and work with attend the Risk Management meetings, but this was my first social media impacted meeting and it was a very exciting time. In fact the photo above was shamelessly grabbed from a shared twitter from Matthew Rathbun

I got to meet my fellow AgentGenius writers Matthew Rathbun and Daniel Rothamel, the RealEstate Zebra. I spent time in the modest Bloggers Lounge set up by the Center for Realtor Technology under the apt guidance of Keith Garner. Just a few minutes after my first face to face meeting with Daniel we were live streaming video (courtesy of the Zebra's technical expertise) talking about real estate, NAR, basketball and the lunge itself. Though we had never met in person before, chatting with Daniel was as natural as a conversation can be when you are responding to people on-line asking questions. I look forward to doing that again sometime - It was a real blast.

The other night we went to dinner with Bloggers from Colorado, New Hampshire, Florida, Virginia and Illinois, organized by Matthew Rathbun, only to found out that my 'new' friends included a member of my Professional Standards Committee.It was a new experience for me. Though she and I had sort of 'passed in the halls' this was the first time we had spent time together and really interacted outside of the committee meeting. Now, 2 days later, she and I and her husband have had lunch and dinner together, and started more of a relationship then we did when we worked together in the large committee.

There is more to this process. In addition to having blogging in common, we all are friends on twitter, where a short 140 character message is written and sent to the people that you "follow" or are "following" you. The 140 characters is based on the largest text message that can be sent to a mobile phone, so even when you are away from your computer, the conversation can be continuous. In fact, during a Social Media presentation yesterday morning, when I needed to attend another meeting, I was privy to the ongoing conversation in the other room, and got experience part of that meeting while I was waiting to present material at the other meeting I was attending. In fact, Hilary Marsh the managing director of's publication division, used twitter to provide brief overviews of a number of the important sessions at Mid-Year, easing the problem of conflicting time demands on people who just can't master the skill of being in two places at once. And for those of us who are compulsively writing, these brief updates took the place of making notes about the event we were attending.

So this set of meetings was special, and even more social then in years past, as the virtual world and real world collided creating new real relationships. Sort of neat isn't it?

My Dinner with Bloggers

I am attending the NAR Mid-Year Meetings in Washington in my position as 2008 NAR Professional Standards Chariman . Most of the time here is spent working in meetings, preparing for meetings, discussing what went on in the meetings, but some of the time, after hours is spent networking and socializing with others in the real estate business.
Though I am a neophyte blogger, Matt Rathbun real estate trainer and fellow blogger at Agentgenius was kind enough to invite me to a dinner he set up for bloggers from Virginia, Florida, Colorado, and Pennsylvania (guess who that is). Matt is standing in the middle of the photo in a blue shirt. Also attending was Hilary Marsh from, the intranet for the National Association of REALTORS and some of the brightest people in the world of real estate social media.
It was a little odd meeting people face to face after twittering at them or seeing them on brightkite, but each and everyone of them is as clever in person as they are on-line. I hope we get do something lie this regularly, but if not, I'll console myself with my electronic lifelines! :-)
And now I have to go to those meetings I was talking about!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Philadelphia Century 21 Company Gives away $21,000

In our current real estate market, the job of the Agent to create traffic through their listing inventory becomes more crucial. If a property is not viewed by potential buyers, then it obviously has a harder time getting sold, so the job of the agent or their company is to someohow make the the listing stand out of the crowd, much like a shiny penny does in a pile of duller ones.

With that thought in mind, my company, Century 21 Advantage Gold created the 21K Gold Advantage Program. This program is based on two concepts -

  1. No one buys a home that they don't see

  2. No one Sees a home their agent doesn't show them.

To provide an incentive for agents to show well priced listings, the program provides an opportunity for agents to attend an event where a $21,000 Check is awarded as a result fo their participation in a fun contest of skill.

On May 9th, at our first 21K breakfast, held at the Brookside Manor in Feasterville PA, Lorrie Scott of PFR Jenkintown, a Cooperating saleperson on one of our 21K properties was awarded the $21,000 award. Lorrie, who indicated that she will be searching for more 21K listings to show, said she would be using her award to pay for her daughter's college tuition.

For opportunities to search for 21K listings and learn more about the program click here.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Happy Birthday Philadelphia REALTORS

This week , on May 7 at the Union League in Philadelphia, the Greater Philadelphia Association of REALTORS celebrated their 100th Birthday. As a Past President of the Association, I had the pleasure of attending and seeing the current President Bill Festa, preside over the awarding of the Willard Rouse Award to Govenor Ed Rendell (who received the Mayor of the Century Award at the Association's 90th Birthday- Do you see a pattern here?) Also in attendance was former City Controller johnathan Saidel, and the Current Mayor of Philadelphia, Michael Nutter.

The Philadelphia Real Estate Association was one of the founding members of the National Association of Real Estate Exchanges, Which became the National Association of Real Estate Boards, and in 1970, The National Association of REALTORS.

Amazing the strides the Association has made during those years. during the 35 years I have been a member, we have had our first woman President, our First African American President, defended the Consumers of Philadelphia and the Real Estate Professionals.

Happy Birthday to All of us, and may the next 100 years see as many changes as the last!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Philadelphia Hits the Top Ten

Those of us who rent houses and apartments have long known that the Philadelphia rental market is one where tenants get a bargain compared to other Metro areas like New York or Washington D.C.
In a recent survey, recently published a list of the top ten best cities for recent college graduates to live.

The "Top 10 Best Cities for Recent College Graduates" list, weighted the entry-level job openings, rental prices for one-bedroom apartments and large resident populations of young adults in their early 20s to create their listing

Top 10 Best Cities for Recent College Graduates listed with Average Rent:

1. Philadelphia $962
2. Boston 1,343
3. New York $1,520
4. Phoenix $741
5. Chicago $1,029
6. Dallas-Fort Worth $755
7. Los Angeles $1,435
8. Houston $778
9. Detroit $699
10. Atlanta $773

I guess the part that amazes me here is not that Philadelphia is at the top of the list but that Los Angeles is listed at all!